South Sydney star and Fiji representative Taane Milne was hit with a Grade 2 reckless high tackle charge in the Rabbitohs’ playoff exit against Penrith, resulting in a six-week suspension, but he could be free to play the first game of 2023 due to the World Cup.
The current NRL ruling is that representative games where a player would have been selected – including the State of Origin and All-Stars in pre-season – are all allowed to count towards the suspension.
Milne has already seen off one match, missing out on Fiji’s one and only warm-up match for the World Cup against England last Friday.
He will have a further three matches chalked off in the group stages. Fiji have been drawn into Group B with Australia, whom they face on Sunday, as well as Scotland and Italy.
Should Fiji progress out of the groups, it is understood that South Sydney would need to make a new application to the NRL if they want the finals matches to also count towards the suspension.
It does mean, however, that should Fiji make the semi-finals, Milne’s ban will have been totally wiped out and he will be able to play in Round 1 of the 2023 NRL Season.
Whatever the outcome, the latest Milne can return to action is Round 3, which is still a significant decrease from what it would, or perhaps should, be.
The NRL is making Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Lindsay Collins and Jason Taumalolo also serve suspensions during the World Cup, though the latter requested that he should serve it in the NRL.
Taumalolo was upset that his ban will see him miss Tonga’s group stage matches at the tournament, requesting the NRL changes its rules to make domestic bans be served in domestic competitions.
It’s yet more confusion around the game-wide suspension rules that were brought to light when Wigan’s John Bateman began serving his three-match ban after he was selected out of the blue in the England Knights squad.